These blog postings do not necessarily represent the views of all members of the Advisory Council.
Gotabhaya "Gota" Rajapaksa the Defense Secretary, Presdent's Brother, and arguably most powerful man in Sri Lanka made an extraordinary speech today in which he claimed that the Sri Lankan Government had, as part of its census, conducted a survey into how many people had been killed in the civil war. He also admitted for the first time that human rights abuses may have taken place or, as he put it so artfully, "during the three and a half years of humanitarian operation, the Sri Lankan military had to be expanded at a rapid pace. In the circumstances, it is possible that a few individuals who lack the capacity to withstand the pressures of the warfare with the required composure may have been recruited."
Clearly the Government of Sri Lanka is realising that it's previous line (that no human rights abuses) took place, has lost all credibility. But their new approach is also worthy of incredulity - to claim now that they have identified and named every single missing or dead person is patently absurd.
The Sri Lankan Government does not have a good record when it comes to counting civilians in the north and the east. As the UN Panel of Experts report made clear, they "deliberately and purposefully underestimated the number of civilians who remained in the Vanni", so when the President's brother says the census shows very few people died, does he draw this conclusion by comparison with the "deliberately and purposefully underestimated" figure or the true figure?
As so often with the Rajapaska regime, we have more questions than answers. This only underlines the urgent need for a credible, independent process to uncover what really took place. Until this happens, the best information we have is the UN Panel of Experts' report, which concluded there was credible evidence that "tens of thousands" - even "up to forty thousand" - civilians were killed.
Much like its flawed and discredited Lessons Learned & Reconciliation Commission, this seems to be yet another attempt by the Rajapaska regime to stall for time while it continues to tighten its grip on the country and commit flagrant abuses.
Labels: United Nations
Next Monday representatives of 25 of the world's most powerful countries will be wined and dined by Gotabaya Rajapaksa: the president's brother and Sri Lankan defence secretary, arguably the most powerful man in Sri Lanka, a brutal autocrat who has publicly denounced democracy and human rights, and a man against whom the UN has found credible allegations of the most serious types of war crimes; an allegation that is also levelled against the LTTE, their adversary in the conflict.
Governments around the world are attempting to have their cake and eat it: on the one hand they pander to us by making stern pronouncements about war crimes allegations in Sri Lanka, its human rights record, and its downward trajectory, yet on the other it wishes to enjoy the hospitality and fruits of co-operation from those identified by the UN as being most responsible for these war crimes and human rights abuses.
The Government of Sri Lanka is attempting, through events such as this (and its earlier conference on “defeating terrorism”) to promote and normalise morally unacceptable and counterproductive attitudes towards security; in the long run this will only weaken and undermine the "maritime stability" this conference seeks to promote. The best way these 25 nations could improve the security of the Indian ocean would be to take a moral stand, and stay away from Gotabaya's cynical PR stunt of a conference.
Gota once dismissed allegations of rape in the north of Sri Lanka out of hand because one particular Tamil nurse - "a person so attractive" - was not raped. The Sri Lankan Navy have been identified by the ICJ as being heavily complicit in war crimes. No government that values democracy and human rights should attend an event like this.
We only have a week to stop the seminar - so please forward this to your friends!
Our campaign director kick started our community fundraising initiative yesterday by cycling the route of the London Marathon. Here is his story.
Yesterday morning, undeterred by a light rain and a heavier hangover. I set out to do my first ever marathon. Running seemed a little beyond me at this stage so I did it on my bike. Unfortunately since I didn't have the foresight to move to a house at the start or finish lines, it ended up being a 40 mile round trip.
I completed the marathon part in 2 hours and 35 minutes, meaning that even on a bicycle I am not as fast as Haile Gebrselassie. Althought, in my defence, the traffic stopped for Haile Gebrselassie and Haile Gebrselassie didn't spend twenty minutes lost in Rotherhithe.
It was a real privilege to be the first person to complete an event for the Sri Lanka campaign. My objective was simply to test the system and show how anybody can set up an event to raise money for Sri Lanka without needing to sacrifice enormous amounts of time and effort. Therefore I was delighted that your generosity and devotion to the cause of peace and justice in Sri Lanka meant that we not only made our original target of £300 but also the revised target of £400. Maybe we can now make £500?
Sterner challenges lie ahead, not least my triathlon in the spring, but every penny raised is greatly appreciated. With the Government of Sri Lanka, the remnants of the LTTE, and the international community all failing to develop the truth, reconciliation and respect for rights necessary for a lasting peace - our work becomes more important than ever.
Are you inspired to answer the call and get involved with community fundraising for Sri Lanka? If so please visit our community fundraising website, and find out how you can join up with like minded people and bake, run, swim, play chess, hold coffee mornings, or climb mount Everest for Sri Lanka.